Corey Huggins and Christene Carr

Sampling is a necessary tool in the marketing mix for any brand in Beauty.  Industry data has long cited sampling as the number one driver for sales conversion.  Therefore, with the advent of beauty subscription boxes, brands are eager to take advantage of their practices for sales conversions.  However, with so many box services from which to choose and each one offering a different take on beauty, how does a Brand choose one box versus another?  As we tell our clients, all beautiful relationships begin with two fundamental principles- Knowing Yourself and Knowing Your Partner. 

1.   KNOW YOURSELF:  Know your brand objectives before starting.  Are you interested in leveraging a subscription box to help build equity or are you seeding a new launch? Ask yourself, “how does a box participation fit into your marketing mix?” The clearer the objectives going into a participation the higher the probability of getting those objectives met.

Additionally, know what level of risk your brand can endure.  Regardless of what any box service says, a direct ROI is difficult to measure and a box participation offers little to no guarantees.  Are you comfortable with this reality?   Asking these types of honest, brand probing questions are critical to a box participation and hopes of a successful outcome.

2.   KNOW YOUR PARTNER:  It has gotten to the point where beauty box subscriptions are as varied as shades of lipsticks.  There are boxes focused on nail polish (,  curly hair, (, women of color (, global markets ( and the list goes on. It is imperative to understand how your target market matches up and/or overlaps with the target market of the box you are considering.  Example, if your product is considered a luxury product for women, placing it in a $12 box targeting college students might not be the best option despite a large subscription base.

a. Product Category:  If you to want to be focused, choose a box service that specializes in your product category or targets your market segment.   If you want to diversify your audience and attract new consumers explore boxes with complementary categories of expertise.  Sometimes it pays to be the only one in the bunch.

b.   Social Media:  Aside from the public numbers of fans and followers, Social Media can aid in judging a brand’s viability. It provides insight into their thinking, strategy and gives a very good look at how the box is being received. Having varied types of activities from contests to user generated content speaks to a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of Social Media and the importance of staying current and having customer participation.

c. Timing and Theme:  Based on your objectives, look at the timing of a box service.  Some are quarterly and offer bigger beauty moments with greater marketing arms.  But most box services are monthly and use themes as a means to distinguish one month’s box from the other.   Be sure to match a particularly box service timing and theme with your marketing calendar.

d. Units Required: For many brands, the ultimate deal breaker is the number of units required.  With some boxes having over a hundred thousand subscribers, it is often difficult for any one brand to fulfill an entire run.  Therefore, a brand must ask upfront what are the minimums runs for a participation and, accordingly, must ascertain if those requirements are feasible and worth it. To help mitigate the risk, get a full understanding of how your units are distributed.  Ask the following questions:

  • How is the targeting and segmenting done?

  • How many units actually go to the targeted subscribers and segmented groups?

  • How many units go to PR efforts?

  • How many units are in the warehouse post participation and can those be returned?

Managing the units is an active process. Don’t solely rely on the box service because ultimately, these are your units.

e.  Added Value:  As support to the box itself, there are a number of marketing extensions that a box service can offer to a brand.  These include:  email database, social media chats, exclusive coupon codes, product review and surveys, case studies and white papers, access to media contacts and exclusive offline brand previews are just some of the ways that a box participation can yield additional exposure and value for participating brands. It is important set the added value schedule prior to a participation.

The trend of subscription services continues to grow and for good reason. But it is only with an intrinsic understanding of your brand and your beauty partner does any participation succeed.  Know yourself & Know your Partner.

About the writers:

Corey Huggins and Christene Carr are a match made in beauty heaven.  The duo will launch Love, Aunt Bonnie, a beauty resource for Black and Multi-Ethnic women in January 2014.   With over 20 collective years in Brand Management & Marketing working for beauty and private sectors companies, Corey & Christene are the ‘beauty bridge’ for brands connecting to multicultural consumer.

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